News Archive

Private View held by Richard Andrews

Last updated : 15th February 2012


Lucian Freud: Portraits is the first exhibition to focus on the portraiture work of one of the most important and influential British artists of his generation. Paintings of people were central to the work of Lucian Freud, and this exhibition features 130 paintings and works on paper, spanning over 70 years. The show includes 'Portrait of the Hound', the unfinished painting of his assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli, on which Freud was working until shortly before his death last year. Freud's portraits are hard, disquieting things, attuned to the tough reality of bare, veiny sprawling bodies, and the jaundiced walls, gummy sheets and cruel furniture around them. Concentrating on particular periods and groups of sitters to show Freud's stylistic development and technical virtuosity, the exhibition includes both iconic and rarely seen portraits of the artist's lovers, friends and family. Described by Freud as 'people in my life', these portraits demonstrate the psychological drama and unrelenting observational intensity of his work. Sitters in the exhibition include family members, particularly his mother Lucie, artists such as Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, John Minton and David Hockney, and the performance artist Leigh Bowery. Bowery's friend Sue Tilley, the 'Benefits Supervisor', who was immortalised by Freud in a series of monumental paintings in the 1990s, is also featured. Other sitters on view include photographer Harry Diamond, Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Andrew Parker Bowles, Baron Rothschild, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and Francis Wyndham. In addition, the exhibition also highlights the recurring importance of the self-portrait in Freud's work. National Portrait Gallery until 27th May.

The Living And The Dead: Paintings And Sculpture By John Kirby is the first retrospective of work by the contemporary Liverpool born artist. John Kirby's paintings and sculpture explores the themes of gender, religion, sexuality and race, and his complex relationship with each of them. Comprising over 50 paintings and 10 sculptures, the exhibition brings together a group of work spanning over 3 decades, from early paintings made at the Royal College of Art in the 1980s to recent pieces. Solitary figures in strange worlds dominate Kirby's work, and this has led many people to compare his paintings to those of Rene Magritte. However, Kirby cites the Polish-French Modern artist Balthus and American realist painter Edward Hopper as his major influences. The claustrophobic interiors charged with an uncomfortable eroticism seen in Balthus' paintings, and statements about the human condition in Hopper's, are themes that also underpin Kirby's work. Highlights of the exhibition include 'Lost Boys', an image of fighting altar boys that references Kirby's Catholic upbringing and is one of his favourite paintings; 'White Wedding', a painting depicting a civil partnership; and the sculpture 'Actaeon', a human head sprouting antlers, mounted on a wall like a hunting trophy. The sculptures in the exhibition are a more recent development in his artistic practice but also a continuation of it, with his ceramic sculptures of heads and figures bearing a striking similarity to the figures found in his paintings. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until 15th April.

Queen Elizabeth II By Cecil Beaton: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration depicts The Queen in her roles as princess, monarch and mother. Photographer, designer and avid diarist Cecil Beaton's royal portraits were among the most widely published photographs of the 20th century. The exhibition explores Beaton's long relationship with Queen Elizabeth II, who was a teenage princess when she first sat for Beaton in 1942. Over the next three decades, Beaton photographed her on many significant occasions including her Coronation Day. The exhibition features nearly 100 portraits, from wartime photographs with her family, to tender images with her own young children, and official portraits that convey the magnitude of her role as Britain's monarch. It shows elegant and highly-staged photographs alongside informal moments of the Royal Family at home, interspersed with film and radio footage from the time. Extracts from Beaton's diaries and letters reveal an insight into the working practice of a royal sitting, from the intense planning beforehand to conversations with The Queen, and the pressures of achieving the perfect portrait. A selection of Beaton's original contact prints, from which the Palace chose the images released to the media are on display for the first time, with volumes of press cuttings. The exhibition also demonstrates how Beaton controlled the use of his photographs, revealing the press embargo, cropping instructions and notes on the sitting scribed on the reverse of his extensively published image of The Queen and newborn Prince Andrew from March 1960. The exhibition is arranged in five sections documenting important sittings and charting the shift in Beaton's photographic style, from his early Rococo-inspired portraits to a starker approach in the 1960s. Victoria & Albert Museum until 22nd April.


David Shrigley: Brain Activity is the first major exhibition of work by the British artist known for his humorous drawings that make witty and wry observations on everyday life. David Shrigley employs a deliberately crude graphic style, which gives his work an immediate and accessible appeal, while simultaneously offering insightful commentary on the absurdities of human relationships. The exhibition covers the full range of Shrigley's work from the past two decades, including drawing, animation, painting, photography, taxidermy and sculpture. There are some 80 drawings never before seen in Britain, plus around 45 larger new paintings on paper. Many of Shrigley's three dimensional works, ranging from hand-crafted sculptures made out of unusual materials, to larger series and installations, including '12 Large Eggs', 'Insects' and 'Black Boots', are characterised by their odd scale, lending the works a strange, uncanny edge. Death and the macabre are recurrent themes in Shrigley's work, treated with the same deadpan humour as the everyday. Other highlights include a large-scale in-situ wall painting; 'Swords and Daggers', a set of bronze weapons; 'The Contents of the Gap between the Refrigerator and the Cooker' a colorful strip that, upon closer inspection, reveals itself to be a pile of miniature plasticine creatures; and a series of photographs that feature discreet interventions that Shrigley has made in various landscapes and interiors, injecting comedic irony to otherwise everyday banal imagery. There is also a brand new animation, shown alongside a selection of Shrigley existing films, including 'New Friends', an ironic twist on peer pressure, 'Sleep', 'Light Switch' and 'Ones', in which the use of repetition brings familiar behaviour into view. Hayward Gallery until 13th May.

Harrogate For Health And Happiness - A Spa Town In The 20th Century charts the rise and fall of the Royal Baths in the 'Bath of the north'. The Royal Baths opened in 1897, featuring the strongest sulphur well in Europe, with the aim of being the most advanced centre for hydrotherapy in the world. At its peak it attracted 15,000 people each summer, including the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia in 1911, but in the period after the Second World War the 'curing' waters were not taken as frequently and it eventually closed in the 1960s. The exhibition examines this history through memories, historical objects, fashion, film, letters and photographs. Among the items on display are a Vichy Bath, a combined shower and bath that mimicked the restorative powers of the French resort, and a teak Peat Bath that moved on wheels and rails to the treatment room. Newly discovered 1930s film footage shows people enjoying a variety of treatments, including peat baths, as well as drinkers at the Royal Pump Room. Visitors can take a tour to see the sulphur wells, discover the history of Turkish Baths, and taste the water that helped to put Harrogate on the map as a popular spa town. The Royal Pump Room Museum, Crown Place, Harrogate, until 31st December.

Golden Spider Silk is a unique display, featuring the only large textiles in the world to have been created from the silk of spiders. It comprises two pieces, each made from the silk of female Golden Orb Weaver spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar. The hand-woven textiles are naturally golden in colour, and each took over four years to create. A 4m long brocaded textile is on show, together with a golden cape, decorated with a wealth of complex embroidered and appliqued motifs celebrating the spider in myth and metaphor. Inspired by 19th century accounts and illustrations, Simon Peers, an Englishman, and Nicholas Godley, an American, started experimenting with spider silk in 2004 to see if they could revive this forgotten art. It is a highly labour intensive undertaking, making these textiles extraordinarily rare and precious objects. To create the textiles, spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in specially conceived 'silking' contraptions. Trained handlers extract the silk from 24 spiders at a time. It has taken over 1 million spiders to provide the silk for the brocaded textile and 80 people 5 years to collect them. The silk of 1.2 million spiders went into making the cape. After 'silking', the silk is taken on cones to the weaving workshop, where skilled weavers have mastered the special tensile properties of the silk. In the Malagasy textile, each warp is made from 96 spun strands of spider silk and each brocading weft has 10 of those threads together - 960 strands in total. In the cape, the main weave is also of 96 strands, the lining 48 strands and a large part of the embroidery is made using unspun 24 strand silk. On average, 23,000 spiders yield around 1 ounce of silk. Victoria & Albert Museum, until 5th June.

Hajj: Journey To The Heart Of Islam examines the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is central to the Muslim faith. The exhibition considers the significance of the Hajj as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, exploring its importance for Muslims and looking at how this spiritual journey has evolved throughout history. It brings together a wealth of objects, including both important historic pieces and new contemporary art works, which reveal the enduring impact of Hajj across the globe and across the centuries. The exhibition has three key strands: the pilgrim's journey, with an emphasis on the major routes used across time (from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East); the Hajj today, its associated rituals and what the experience means to the pilgrim; and Mecca, the destination of Hajj, its origins and importance. At the heart of the sanctuary in Mecca lies the Ka'ba, the cube-shaped building that Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. It was in Mecca that the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations in the early 7th century. The rituals involved with Hajj have remained unchanged since its beginning, and it continues to be a powerful religious undertaking that draws Muslims together from all over the world. The objects, which evoke and document the long and perilous journey associated with the pilgrimage, the gifts offered to the sanctuary as acts of devotion and the souvenirs that are brought back from Hajj, include archaeological material, manuscripts, textiles, historic photographs and art. The Hajj has a deep emotional and spiritual significance for Muslims, and continues to inspire a wide range of personal, literary and artistic responses, many of which are explored throughout the exhibition. British Museum until 15th April.

The Garden Of Forgotten Engineers, Smiths And Bicycles features a collection of monster sculptures made from scrap materials of all kinds. Serena Thirkell, a descendant of Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones, creates strange metal mythical creatures and monsters from broken agricultural machinery, old garden tools and even dentist's equipment. The exhibition in the grounds of the gallery includes a rusty Belling heater that has become a bee; a potato lough transmogrified into a mantis; pipe benders that form a Trojan Horse; a vegetable steamer transposed into a Samurai family; bicycle gears and chain metamorphosed into a duck; and an old farmer's plough mould boards, a digger bucket and smith's tongs transformed into a huge helicopter called a 'Helicopterix'. A true British eccentric. Worthing Museum & Art Gallery until 5th May.

Meetings In Marrakech: The Paintings Of Hassan El Glaoui And Winston Churchill tells the story of the unlikely friendship of two very different characters. The exhibition brings together for the first time a unique collection of work by Winston Churchill and Hassan El Glaoui. Churchill, an accomplished amateur painter, first visited the Moroccan city of Marrakech in 1935. He developed a lasting affection for the city, considering it 'one of the loveliest spots in the whole world', and was inspired to produce many paintings of its buildings and people. During these trips he befriended Hadj Thami El-Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech - also known as the 'Black Panther'. Through Churchill's intervention, the Pasha's son, Hassan El Glaoui, was permitted to pursue his passion for painting, something that had not met with the Pasha's approval. Churchill's influence had significant results. El Glaoui was the first Moroccan artist to establish an international reputation, and today his work is among the most sought after contemporary North African art in the world. This exhibition demonstrates that for Churchill, Morocco provided an inspiration that was profound, and, despite such different starting points, a common sensibility and appreciation for the country is communicated in the work of both artists. In two different views of the same subject by two very different men, there are striking similarities in composition, subject matter and palate, if not in execution. Highlights include Churchill's 'River near Marrakech' and 'The Mosque in Marrakech' and El Glaoui's 'Les trois caleches' and 'Residence Styina a Marrakech'. Leighton House Museum, London W14, until 31st March.


Arctic Convoys 1941 - 1945 marks the 70th anniversary of the first Allied Arctic convoys to Russia during the Second World War, said to have been described by Winston Churchill as 'the worst journey in the world'. The Arctic convoys made their way from Britain to northern Russia between 1941 and 1945. Their vital cargo included tanks, fighter planes, fuel, ammunition, raw materials, and food. In total the convoys transported over four million tonnes of supplies to the Soviet Union, but the human and material costs were high. By May 1945, the treacherous Arctic route had claimed 104 merchant and 16 military vessels, and thousands of Allied seamen had lost their lives. Under constant threat of attack by German U-boats and aircraft, the Arctic convoys also had to contend with severe cold, storms, fog and ice floes. The exhibition examines the challenges faced by the men on board, some of whom spoke of conditions so harsh that salt spray froze as it fell, waves so huge they tore at ships' armour plating and pilots so numb with cold they had to be lifted out of their cockpits. The show includes contemporary photographs, some of which have never been on public display before, paintings by war artists, clothing worn by sailors, and recollections of some of those who took part. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, until 28th February.

Miracles And Charms explores the extraordinary in the everyday with two linked shows.

Infinitas Gracias: Mexican Miracle Paintings is a display of Mexican votive paintings, usually executed on tin roof tiles or small plaques, depicting the moment of personal humility when an individual asks a saint for help and is delivered from disaster and sometimes death. The exhibition features over 100 votive paintings together with images, news reports, photographs, devotional artefacts, film and interviews, illustrating the depth of the votive tradition in Mexico. Usually commissioned from local artists by the petitioner, votive paintings tell immediate and intensely personal stories, from domestic dramas to revolutionary violence, through which a markedly human history of communities and their culture can be read. The profound influence of these vernacular paintings, and the artists and individuals who painted them, can be seen in the work of such figures as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who were avid collectors.

Felicity Powell - Charmed Life: The Solace Of Objects comprises some 400 traditional amulets encircled with works by the artist. The amulets, ranging from simple coins to meticulously carved shells, dead animals to elaborately fashioned notes, are from a collection amassed by the banker and obsessive folklorist Edward Lovett, who scoured London by night, buying curious objects from the city's mudlarks, barrow men and sailors. The amulets are objects of solace. Intended to be held, touched, and kept close to the body, they are by turns designed and found, peculiar and familiar. Felicity Powell's works address the strange allure of these objects. Intricate miniatures, with white wax reliefs on black mirror slate, they carry the same intimacy of size as the amulets, and are meticulously crafted. Film works see the wax reliefs in animation, featuring the hands of the artist as she works, alongside medical scans of her body overlaid with drawn images of amulets.

Wellcome Collection, London until 26th February.

Memory Remains: 9/11 Artifacts At Hangar 17 - Francesc Torres marks the 10th anniversary of the world's worst terrorist attack. Following the devastation of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th 2001, the recovery effort began, and the 16 acre site underwent the careful and lengthy process of being cleared. A small group of architects and curators began to fill the empty shell of the 80,000 sq ft Hangar 17 at John F Kennedy International Airport with debris and material cleared from the site, transforming it into a storehouse of memories. Spanish-American artist Francesc Torres, commissioned by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, was granted access to explore inside the hangar, and over a period of 5 weeks, produced an extensive series of photographs reflecting on the emotional power of what remained after 9/11. This exhibition features over 150 projected images, which explore inside the hangar and reflect on the emotional power of what remained, from personal belongings to steel girders distorted by the force of the attacks. In photographs of exceptional sensitivity and insight, Torres has captured both the monumental scale of loss in the wake of the terror attacks, and the excruciating intimacy of personal effects that remain as testaments to those unwittingly caught in the maelstrom of destruction. Alongside the photographs is a section of raw rusted steel over 2m in length from the ruins of the World Trade Center, thought to be the box section of one of the windows. Imperial War Museum, London, until 26th February.